RANDOM by Craig Robertson

Published by Simon & Schuster

‘EENY, MEENY, MINY, MO…WHO WILL BE THE NEXT TO GO?’

Another serial killer novel…..

But, for once, this debut novel is a refreshing take on what would otherwise have been a formula, by the numbers, police procedural book.

Craig Robertson has taken the risky and somewhat disturbing line of telling his tale from the point of view of the serial killer himself throughout the book, with the only involvement by the Police being seen through his eyes and newspaper reports.  This works very well as a new take on what has become something of a tired genre, with the killer tracking the performance of the cops and the press who seek to find him rather than the traditional approach of watching the detectives seek their prey.

It was something that I did worry wouldn’t work, or assumed that he would have to resort back to the traditional third person narrative after the opening chapters, but he successfully manages to steer the whole book through the eyes, thoughts and actions of the killer.  This is a very unnerving read as it places the reader in the killer’s shoes, literally, and gives you no choice but to be complicate in all of his acts of violence and the cruel and unusual methods he adopts to keep the cops and the press on their toes.

There are some nice twists along the way and some really nice touches.

The fact that we do not know the reasoning behind the killings until some way into the book works well, slowly being revealed through comments about the killer’s wife and one of his early kills.

Nice to see that part of the randomness of the actions and the way the victims are chosen the killer has taken from Luke Reinhart’s 1971 novel The Dice Man, but it’s a scary insight into just how information can be gleaned about a potential target via Facebook and other means.   (Maybe I should log this review under a pseudonym…)

I don’t know if I really want to know too much about Robertson’s research into the methods used – all seem frighteningly real and feasible – and the book is clearly bang up to date with references his character makes to serial killers from the past, including some very recent cases.

The use of newspaper reports to break up some of the internal dialogue and to provide the other viewpoint of the police and press is well used and clearly was something that the twenty years the author spent at the Sunday Post in Glasgow stood him in good stead.

In particular I loved three features of this book.

The first was that the killer feels he needs to do something to show his audience that the crimes are linked, despite the fact that he changes the MO on every one and his victims are chosen completely at random.  So, he takes to cutting off a little finger from each victim and mails them to the police.  The press decide, as is their wont, to give him a moniker, and they go with “Jock the Ripper”.  This really annoys him as he thinks it’s such a poor name, so he sends another message signed by “The Cutter” – thus renaming himself and taking control of his story once again.

The job that the killer has is that of a taxi cab driver –  the clipped and repetitive dialogue between him and his passengers is enough to make anyone go all Travis Bickle but, as it turns out, his job has no relevance as such to the reasons for him turning to kill, although it does help with his constant search for information on potential targets and a nice touch that one of his kills becomes mistaken for a gangland hit.

Lastly, and most importantly I guess, is the fact that I’ll remember this book.  It has some of the most descriptive and believable scenes I’ve read in a serial killer book for some time – no doubt helped greatly because as the reader you also become the killer.  And, with a closing scene that I’ll recall for some time to come, it has the distinction of being a novel where I’ll always recall how it ended – not something I can honestly say for a lot of crime novels I’ve read in a while.

I ‘think’ I’m looking forward to meeting Craig next month, but may choose to keep any personal details guarded…..mind you, he did interview three recent Prime Ministers and Susan Boyle and he’s spared all of them.

Keith B Walters

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “RANDOM by Craig Robertson

  1. I picked up a copy of Random for free at last year’s Harrogate Crime Festival, by dint of sitting next to Craig at dinner one night! (He’s absolutely charming). I would have bought it anyway, and I agree with your praise. It’ll be a hard one to follow, but I shall definitely buy that.

  2. Hi Janet
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    I was also at Harrogate last year – what an event!
    I had the pleasure of being at Caro Ramsay’s table – another fine crime writer and perfect host.

    Hope to catch you here again soon – your blog looks great – I will have a proper read and add a link here soon.

    All the best with the readin’ and the writin’

    Keith

  3. Pingback: Cold Grave by Craig Robertson | Books and Writers

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